In Praise of “The Fox & the Hunt” by The Dear Hunter (#10 in 2020’s Top Ten)

Blessed are the bands and musicians who release instrumental versions of their albums, for they shall receive further joy from fans who want to sing along (terribly) to their favorite songs. It is a tragedy that albums with excellent music rarely get instrumental releases unless the band goes out of their way to do it consistently (thank you, The Ocean), but on the handful of times when it does happen it is always a treat. But with The Fox and the Hunt, Casey Crescenzo – one of the most criminally underappreciated musicians alive – isn’t content to give us the simple instrumental versions of The Dear Hunter’s Act IV and Act V, but to record an entire orchestral suite of the movements and melodies that make this pair of albums a masterpiece of prog folk-rock storytelling.

It isn’t possible to summarize the plot of the Act albums in this short post, and the plot of the albums is not entirely relevant here given the lyrics of the albums are absent here. But for those who are familiar with the story of Hunter and his fall, repentance, and redemption, these orchestral renditions will instantly recall the moments of action, heartbreak, despair, and triumph, even if presented out of order relative to the track lists of the two albums. Some of these renditions are straight 1:1 instrumental recreations, such as “Your Stubborn Heart”’s nearly identical rendering of “Regress” from Act V, but other songs are unlikely pairings (“Can I Fall Into The Ocean / A Quicker Fix”) or distillations of multiple songs, such as “Far Too Many Waves to Try” masterfully summarizing the entire opening suite of Act IV in one take. Not only are the best moments of the two albums represented here, the best features of a splendid orchestral performance shine forth as well, and it is a beautiful match made in heaven.

Even if you are not familiar with The Dear Hunter (and how I wish you were if you aren’t!), I cannot commend this release enough to anyone looking for beautiful, soul-stirring music. One need not know the missing words to appreciate the deep riches of beauty and creativity here, and just know that if you enjoy The Fox and the Hunt, Act IV and Act V are a few clicks away.

If you have thoughts, let me hear them!

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